The President of Germany will confer one of Germany’s foremost honours – the Federal Order of Merit, first class – upon him in October. In November, Professor Schellnhuber will be presented with the Volvo Environment Prize 2011 – the first German to receive this prestigious award. And the University of Copenhagen will honour him with an Honorary Doctorate.
‘In the last decade or so, Schellnhuber has played a strong role in linking Earth System science and sustainability science to policy. Perhaps the most prominent example of this activity is his role as Chair of the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU). Although it is established as a national German institution, the WBGU, under Schellnhuber’s leadership, has rapidly built a global reputation as a source of authoritative and timely information on global change issues, particularly climate change. WBGU reports range from strongly scientific issues, such as the current changes that are occurring to the world’s oceans (warming, acidification, sea-level rise) to visionary and exploratory issues, such as the latest report “World in Transition: A Social Contract for Sustainability”, which outlines the pathways that can lead us to a far more sustainable future. These WBGU reports are widely quoted and used internationally, evidence of the intellectual quality and strategic foresight they embody under Schellnhuber’s chairmanship,’ the official statement from the Volvo Environment Prize Foundation notes.
John Schellnhuber has been a member of the WBGU since 1992 and Chair since 2008. He also chaired the Council from 1996 to 2000 and served as Vice Chair from 1994 to 1996 and from 2004 to 2008.
The WBGU developed the 2°C guard rail concept for climate policy, a concept significantly influenced by Schellnhuber. As early as 1995, the WBGU first proposed that global mean temperature rise must not exceed 2°C above pre-industrial levels if dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system is to be avoided. Recognised first by the European Union, the international community finally affirmed the 2°C guard rail as its policy guideline in the decisions adopted at the Cancún climate conference in 2010.
Under John Schellnhuber’s chairmanship, the WBGU also developed the budget
approach to climate policy, which has attracted much interest among policy-makers. This proposes a global carbon dioxide emissions budget for fossil sources up to the year 2050 and recommends a scheme for the distribution of this budget among the world’s countries on an equal per capita basis. The latest WBGU flagship report ‘World in Transition – A Social Contract for Sustainability’ charts a detailed technological and social course towards a sustainable society and proposes practical solutions to facilitate this transition.